Report: Indian Americans demand justice for Gujarat victims through candle-light vigils in several cities across the US
Saturday, March 10, 2012
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – https://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, observed the tenth anniversary of the horrific carnage in Gujarat through candle-light vigils held in several cities across the US, as well as an online candle-light vigil on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gujarat-Genocide/256516174422867
The objective of the vigils and demonstrations was to express solidarity with the victims of the pogrom of 2002, and to demand justice and reparation for them. Vigils were held in Washington DC, New York City, Boston, Tamarac(FL), Santa Clara (CA) and San Diego (CA) over the weekend of March 3-4, 2012. At each vigil participants called upon all people of conscience to ask their Congressional representatives to support House Resolution HRES 569, introduced in the House of Representatives to mark the tenth anniversary of the Gujarat massacres and to ask the Gujarat government to restore religious freedom.
New York City
The rally and candlelight vigil sponsored by the various constituents of Coalition Against Genocie (CAG), was by all accounts a great success. The objective of the rally was to draw the attention of New Yorkers to the state-sponsored death and dismemberment of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat, and the rape and sexual mutilation of hundreds women and girls, in 2002.
The vigil was held at a location of great symbolic significance – the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Union Square Park. The rally highlighted the glaring inconsistencies between the vision of India symbolized by Gandhi and the current situation in the state of Gandhi’s birth, viz. Gujarat. Each speaker bemoaned the lack of justice despite the passage of ten years since the massacres.
The coalition comprised not just of Indian American organizations, but also anti-war interfaith organizations from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. Some of the leadership of these organizations, represented at the rally included Imam Tali Abdur Rashid, an African American imam who heads Islamic Leadership Council, the umbrella body of New York area Muslims, Dr. Hillel Levine, the founder of Center for International Conciliation, Biju Matthew of South Asian Solidarity Initiative and Rev. Mark Lukens, the President of The Interfaith Alliance, Long Island chapter.
Mohammad Yusuf Dadani of the Indian American Muslim Council reminded the attendees of what had happened in Gujarat and why it was important to stay focused on demanding justice and reparation for the victims and to deny Modi the veneer of acceptability in the West that he so desperately desires.
CAG organizers reminded the people to call their Congressional representatives and ask them to support HR 569 introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison, memorializing the 2002 massacres in Gujarat and calling upon the Modi government to bring the culprits and masterminds of this massacre to justice.
Santa Clara (California)
A candle light vigil commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Gujarat 2002 violence was held in the Bay Area. Around 150 people from the Indian-American community gathered in the plaza in front of Santa Clara City Hall for the vigil on Sunday evening. The event was organized by Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) along with member organizations of Coalition Against Genocide (CAG).
About 40 organizations formed the CAG coalition in 2005 to campaign against the Modi’s visit to the US and got the State Department to revoke his visa.
The vigil included observing a minute of silence and members from several organizations speaking in solidarity with the survivors in their fight for justice. Several children held placards that demanded justice for the victims of the 2002 violence.
The resolution introduced by Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison in the House of Representatives (H.R 569) noting that the Gujarat government had not pursued justice for the victims was read out by Zafar Haq, General Secretary of IAMC.
Dr. Angana Chatterji, a founding member of CAG, recounted the violence visited on innocent women and children while Anu Mandavilli, an Indian American activist and a member of CAG explained the role of coalition in creating the awareness about the injustices happening in Gujarat and how diverse organizations coming together can make a big difference.
Ahsan Khan, President of the Bay Area chapter of IAMC urged all people of conscience to “resolve to continue the struggle until all the perpetrators are brought to book”.
San Diego (California)
On a bright Sunday evening on March 04, 2012, about 75 people gathered at Balboa Park to express their solidarity with the victims of the Gujarat massacres of 2002. Besides Indian Americans, representatives of the local chapter of AID India as well as community members from other nationalities joined the event.
Participants carried placards calling for justice and reparation for the victims, and declaring that the Gujarat pogrom would never be forgotten.
After sunset participants held candles and reflected on the pain and suffering of one the worst sectarian massacres in India since the partition in 1947. Participants handed leaflets to passersby to create awareness about the Gujarat pogrom and also observed a minute of silence for the victims. Pictures of the vigil can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/memonphoto
Washington DC: Candle-light vigil across the White House to commemorate victims of 2002 Pogrom in Gujarat
Volunteers from Maryland, Virginia, Washington and Delware gathered in Washington D.C on March 03, 2012, to observe a candle-light vigil in Lafayette Park, across the White House. Najid Hussain, son-in-law of former Congress Member of Parliament, Ehsan Jafri who was brutally murdered during the pogrom, as well as Zubair Jafri, son of Ehsan Jafri were among the 50 volunteers. Leaders of various local organizations, including Muslim Support Services and Masjid Al-Falah were among the speakers. All speakers emphasized the importance of continuing the struggle for justice in a non-violent manner and acknowledged the important work of IAMC in the upliftment of minorities.
Boston: Vigil at Harvard Square to demand justice for Gujarat genocide victims
About 50 people braved the cold winter weather of New England and gathered at Harvard Square, close to Harvard University, to observe the tenth anniversary of the Gujarat Pogrom. This event was held under the aegis of the Coalition against Genocide in which IAMC-Boston was in the forefront, along its coalition partners. Participants wished to send a clear message to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other perpetrators the Gujarat Pogrom that the struggle to bring them to justice for their crimes against humanity would continue.
Amin Zama, President of the IAMC Boston Chapter recognized the importance of expressing solidarity with the victims, while Aslam Merchant, Vice-President of the Boston Chapter spoke about the deplorable situation of Muslims in Gujarat 10 years after the pogrom of 2002.
Coalition partners that were represented were Alliance for Secular and Democratic South Asia, AID Boston and twocircles.net, the largest news portal focused on Indian Muslims. Team members read reports from human rights defenders in India, as well as reports on the situation in refugee camps, ten years after the massacres.
Volunteers gathered at Sunset Point Park in Tamarac, FL on March 03, 2012 to commemorate the victims of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and to demand justice and reparation for them.
Charlotte (North Carolina)
Several families assembled on March 4 at Freedom Park despite the cold and wintry weather for a candle-light vigil. Dr. Masood Khan gave an enlightening talk reminding the gathering of the Gujarat pogrom.